MBA at 40 - looking for some general advice


mcgr

Turned 40 recently and looking to make a career change. I've been with the same small company almost exclusively since finishing my B.A. at age 28. I started at an admin level doing back office work for their asset management business, eventually became a research analyst, then director of research, and then a few years ago became a partner and started doing consulting work focused on strategy and M&A. As good as this has been, it's become clear that this isn't the field I want to spend the rest of my career in. We're focused on consulting services for health care companies, and I'd like to move away from that and from 'Wall St.' type jobs more generally.

My B,A. was focused on environmental economics and sustainability, and that is ideally where I'd like to end up, but getting there from here isn't a straight hop, so I'm hoping an MBA could help bridge that gap.

So I have more specific questions about what type of programs to look into for sustainability focused MBAs, and have already identified a handful, but my broader question is to try and get a sense of what level of program is realistic for me to shoot for? My undergrad was at a mid level state school and my GPA was decidedly not spectacular (however that was mostly in the first two years, and after taking a few years break I came back and finished my last year with a 3.8 g.p.a). I've got a decent career projection, but all at a small firm. I haven't taken the GMAT yet, but have taken a practice test that suggests I should be able to score fairly well, and standardized tests have always been a strong area for me. But given my age and mixed resume, where should I try and put my expectations?

Turned 40 recently and looking to make a career change. I've been with the same small company almost exclusively since finishing my B.A. at age 28. I started at an admin level doing back office work for their asset management business, eventually became a research analyst, then director of research, and then a few years ago became a partner and started doing consulting work focused on strategy and M&A. As good as this has been, it's become clear that this isn't the field I want to spend the rest of my career in. We're focused on consulting services for health care companies, and I'd like to move away from that and from 'Wall St.' type jobs more generally.

My B,A. was focused on environmental economics and sustainability, and that is ideally where I'd like to end up, but getting there from here isn't a straight hop, so I'm hoping an MBA could help bridge that gap.

So I have more specific questions about what type of programs to look into for sustainability focused MBAs, and have already identified a handful, but my broader question is to try and get a sense of what level of program is realistic for me to shoot for? My undergrad was at a mid level state school and my GPA was decidedly not spectacular (however that was mostly in the first two years, and after taking a few years break I came back and finished my last year with a 3.8 g.p.a). I've got a decent career projection, but all at a small firm. I haven't taken the GMAT yet, but have taken a practice test that suggests I should be able to score fairly well, and standardized tests have always been a strong area for me. But given my age and mixed resume, where should I try and put my expectations?
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Duncan

I think you need a conversation, or perhaps several conversations, with MBA holders. You'd be a very interesting candidate for EMBA programs but you are too senior for most full-time MBAs and you won't be attractive to traditional MBA recruiters' associates programs. For a full time program, the Stanford MSx, the MIT or LBS Sloan fellows program, USC's IBEAR MBA and the Nanjang Fellows program are a good fit. But any top EMBA wll be a good fit.

I think you need a conversation, or perhaps several conversations, with MBA holders. You'd be a very interesting candidate for EMBA programs but you are too senior for most full-time MBAs and you won't be attractive to traditional MBA recruiters' associates programs. For a full time program, the Stanford MSx, the MIT or LBS Sloan fellows program, USC's IBEAR MBA and the Nanjang Fellows program are a good fit. But any top EMBA wll be a good fit.
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mcgr

Thanks for the reply and suggestions. I've been talking to a few colleagues with MBAs along with other higher degrees to get their views, I'm the only one at my organization that does not have a PhD. Regarding an executive MBA, I've looked into some of those and they do seem appealing to someone of my age and background, but if I understand correctly Executive MBAs generally require you to be employed full time and have your company "sponsor" you (meaning at least consent to you missing regular time for work for class)? I worry about trying to continue in my current role while attending school, because my experience suggests that the senior partner would initially be agreeable to sponsoring an EMBA, but then find reasons for why I can't go to class or give time for studying, which has happened in the past. What happens if you lose your job in the middle of an EMBA?

I'll look into the full time programs you suggest,

Thanks for the reply and suggestions. I've been talking to a few colleagues with MBAs along with other higher degrees to get their views, I'm the only one at my organization that does not have a PhD. Regarding an executive MBA, I've looked into some of those and they do seem appealing to someone of my age and background, but if I understand correctly Executive MBAs generally require you to be employed full time and have your company "sponsor" you (meaning at least consent to you missing regular time for work for class)? I worry about trying to continue in my current role while attending school, because my experience suggests that the senior partner would initially be agreeable to sponsoring an EMBA, but then find reasons for why I can't go to class or give time for studying, which has happened in the past. What happens if you lose your job in the middle of an EMBA?

I'll look into the full time programs you suggest,
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Duncan

I recommend an EMBA. You will get into a better school that way.

If your firm supports you then quite simply you will not and cannot miss classes. That is the deal.

I recommend an EMBA. You will get into a better school that way.

If your firm supports you then quite simply you will not and cannot miss classes. That is the deal.
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Duncan

Just to add: I was in my late 30s when I did my EMBA at LBS, funded by a salary sacrifice. Deloitte paid for the first year and then my news employer picked up the rest when I moved firm.

Just to add: I was in my late 30s when I did my EMBA at LBS, funded by a salary sacrifice. Deloitte paid for the first year and then my news employer picked up the rest when I moved firm.
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mcgr

Thanks. That is very helpful. I still have worries, but hopefully they can be overcome.

Thanks. That is very helpful. I still have worries, but hopefully they can be overcome.
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mcgr

Any recommendations for an EMBA that would be best positioned for me to transition into the field of renewable energy/energy storage or other sustainability technology? I've found a lot of resources on this site and others for full time programs with a sustainability focus, but haven't really seen anything for EMBA's. Am wondering about how they would consider my working in a completely different industry while completing my degree.

The other main criteria for me is a program with a strong international component and flexibility to find work outside of the U.S. upon graduation. And while high salary is always nice, it is of a much lower priority for me than is finding work in a field that is personally fulfilling and where I feel the company is helping to make the world a better place.

Any recommendations for an EMBA that would be best positioned for me to transition into the field of renewable energy/energy storage or other sustainability technology? I've found a lot of resources on this site and others for full time programs with a sustainability focus, but haven't really seen anything for EMBA's. Am wondering about how they would consider my working in a completely different industry while completing my degree.

The other main criteria for me is a program with a strong international component and flexibility to find work outside of the U.S. upon graduation. And while high salary is always nice, it is of a much lower priority for me than is finding work in a field that is personally fulfilling and where I feel the company is helping to make the world a better place.
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Duncan

I guess MIT is the obvious choice?

Otherwise, considering the German-speaking region's leading place in sustainability, the Northwestern-WHU, and Minnesota-WU EMBAs are worth looking at. The Euro*MBA has long modules which are great for scheduling, as does the Purdue-Tilburg IMM. Chicago, Columbia-London, Trium, the OneMBA, Indiana-MBS are also good global options. Some of these are surprisingly good value.

I guess MIT is the obvious choice?

Otherwise, considering the German-speaking region's leading place in sustainability, the Northwestern-WHU, and Minnesota-WU EMBAs are worth looking at. The Euro*MBA has long modules which are great for scheduling, as does the Purdue-Tilburg IMM. Chicago, Columbia-London, Trium, the OneMBA, Indiana-MBS are also good global options. Some of these are surprisingly good value.
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mcgr

Thanks again. Good to have some programs to investigate, and many of these were not on my radar at all. Appreciate the help.

Thanks again. Good to have some programs to investigate, and many of these were not on my radar at all. Appreciate the help.
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mcgr

I've been investigating programs more over the last two weeks, and am trying to come up with a short list of schools to apply to. Of the programs that Duncan suggested, Trium and OneMBA are particularly attractive both from a program perspective and the ability to work them into my life without major disruption for myself or my wife. I'm also looking at programs at Ross, Rotterdam, Johnson, and Rotman based on their inclusion on the "Top MBAs for Sustainability," under the (possibly flawed) assumption that those attributes would also be part of the EMBA curriculum.

My big issue is having trouble assessing my quality as a candidate, to know how to divide schools up into safe, realistic, and stretch but doable baskets. As mentioned earlier, my undergrad G.P.A. was not great (2.9 at a state school). I've had success in my career, but it has been at a small company with a flat hierarchy, so while I'm a partner I don't have a lot of direct management experience. I'm taking the GRE in two weeks (had been studying for the GMAT, but then found out about the biometric data collection which I object to). Took my first practice exam last week and scored 167V and 155Q. The quant score I think I can improve a decent amount, as I let time get away from me. I'm hoping for a score above 160 on test day, and hoping I can keep the verbal score steady. From the limited information I can find on GRE scores for business schools, it looks like that would only put me in the average range for a top 25 school, but with the obvious other deficits in my profile. I don't have a lot of extracurricular activities I can point to either, particularly in the years since I was made a partner.

I understand the advice that it usually makes sense to go to the best ranked school you are accepted to, but not as much info on how to shortlist the programs. Approximately how many programs should I plan on applying to? Any suggestions based on my profile of schools that I can be pretty confident I can get into? That way I can eliminate from consideration lower ranked programs.

BTW Duncan, I appreciate how helpful you have been to me and many, many other people on the board over the years for free, but please let me know if my questions are going into the personalized guidance territory that you mention on your profile page.

Thanks!

I've been investigating programs more over the last two weeks, and am trying to come up with a short list of schools to apply to. Of the programs that Duncan suggested, Trium and OneMBA are particularly attractive both from a program perspective and the ability to work them into my life without major disruption for myself or my wife. I'm also looking at programs at Ross, Rotterdam, Johnson, and Rotman based on their inclusion on the "Top MBAs for Sustainability," under the (possibly flawed) assumption that those attributes would also be part of the EMBA curriculum.

My big issue is having trouble assessing my quality as a candidate, to know how to divide schools up into safe, realistic, and stretch but doable baskets. As mentioned earlier, my undergrad G.P.A. was not great (2.9 at a state school). I've had success in my career, but it has been at a small company with a flat hierarchy, so while I'm a partner I don't have a lot of direct management experience. I'm taking the GRE in two weeks (had been studying for the GMAT, but then found out about the biometric data collection which I object to). Took my first practice exam last week and scored 167V and 155Q. The quant score I think I can improve a decent amount, as I let time get away from me. I'm hoping for a score above 160 on test day, and hoping I can keep the verbal score steady. From the limited information I can find on GRE scores for business schools, it looks like that would only put me in the average range for a top 25 school, but with the obvious other deficits in my profile. I don't have a lot of extracurricular activities I can point to either, particularly in the years since I was made a partner.

I understand the advice that it usually makes sense to go to the best ranked school you are accepted to, but not as much info on how to shortlist the programs. Approximately how many programs should I plan on applying to? Any suggestions based on my profile of schools that I can be pretty confident I can get into? That way I can eliminate from consideration lower ranked programs.

BTW Duncan, I appreciate how helpful you have been to me and many, many other people on the board over the years for free, but please let me know if my questions are going into the personalized guidance territory that you mention on your profile page.

Thanks!
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mcgr

After reading some older threads on sustainability MBAs and particularly some of Duncan's comments on those and on his own site I thought it would be useful to clarify my goals a little bit. I am not looking to be a CSR officer at a company or anything of that nature. I also tend to be more pragmatic, and am slightly skeptical of ideas like the triple bottom line.

My dream job would be a BD position at a smallish startup with a great cleantech product/idea. But it's not obvious how one positions themselves for that kind of role. The most obvious thing I can think of is an EMBA in the tech hubs, but I think that the prominent programs in SV or Boston or almost certainly out of reach. Would a better strategy be to focus on programs with an emphasis on entrepreneurship vs. sustainability? What's the best way to network with the 20 somethings that have a great idea, but not necessarily the business acumen to bring it to market?

After reading some older threads on sustainability MBAs and particularly some of Duncan's comments on those and on his own site I thought it would be useful to clarify my goals a little bit. I am not looking to be a CSR officer at a company or anything of that nature. I also tend to be more pragmatic, and am slightly skeptical of ideas like the triple bottom line.

My dream job would be a BD position at a smallish startup with a great cleantech product/idea. But it's not obvious how one positions themselves for that kind of role. The most obvious thing I can think of is an EMBA in the tech hubs, but I think that the prominent programs in SV or Boston or almost certainly out of reach. Would a better strategy be to focus on programs with an emphasis on entrepreneurship vs. sustainability? What's the best way to network with the 20 somethings that have a great idea, but not necessarily the business acumen to bring it to market?
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Duncan

I think you're thinking along the right lines. It will be the network, not the diploma, that opens doors to start-ups. I think you should focus on schools for start-ups rather than for sustainability. Babson? I don't know where you are based...

I think you're thinking along the right lines. It will be the network, not the diploma, that opens doors to start-ups. I think you should focus on schools for start-ups rather than for sustainability. Babson? I don't know where you are based...
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mcgr

Thanks again Duncan. I'm in NYC currently, but have a fair amount of flexibility in location with my current position. Easiest would be something that let me stay in NYC and travel once a month or so for classes that are within a few hours of NYC either by air or train, but for the right program I could probably work out an arrangement to live locally and work remotely.

I'll look into Babson, I've heard the name, but am otherwise unfamiliar with the program.

Also, I'm not 100% clear from your profile page, but if this is the kind of personalized guidance you offer as a service I'd be happy to pay you for your time. Just let me know.

Thanks again Duncan. I'm in NYC currently, but have a fair amount of flexibility in location with my current position. Easiest would be something that let me stay in NYC and travel once a month or so for classes that are within a few hours of NYC either by air or train, but for the right program I could probably work out an arrangement to live locally and work remotely.

I'll look into Babson, I've heard the name, but am otherwise unfamiliar with the program.

Also, I'm not 100% clear from your profile page, but if this is the kind of personalized guidance you offer as a service I'd be happy to pay you for your time. Just let me know.
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LJ75

mcgr - I hope you won't mind if I piggyback on your topic. If I were to open a new one, it'd have the same title as yours. However, if that's a problem, I will leave not to dilute the discussion.

I am in a similar position. I'm 42, and I have graduated 20 years ago at a university in SE Asia (I am originally from SE Europe), BBA, conc. Marketing. My CGPA was not that great either, a bit above 2.9.

Well, now I have 17 years of sales and (mostly) marketing experience in FMCG industry, incl. international, my current role being Mktg Director in a big African market for a big soft drinks company. (the remaining three years of my career were in procurement and banking).

We will be moving to the US in August (most likely Syracuse, NY OR Charlotte, NC area), and I will start from scratch. I'd love to do MBA, however, cost is a major consideration. Admittedly, I am also a bit rusty, but I guess GMAT shouldn't be a problem with some preparation. Also, I like marketing, but I'd like to change the company, and maybe even industry, but my main criterium will be to do something I like for a company I can associate with - ideally for a good cause.

Syracuse University is too expensive for me, so I was looking at SUNY @ Utica/Rome or if we were to move to Charlotte, UNC. I am at a very early stage in my research / even thinking about this whole thing, however, any advice or question that may aid my thinking is welcome.

Again, apologies if it's distracting - if yes, I'll move it to another topic.

mcgr - I hope you won't mind if I piggyback on your topic. If I were to open a new one, it'd have the same title as yours. However, if that's a problem, I will leave not to dilute the discussion.

I am in a similar position. I'm 42, and I have graduated 20 years ago at a university in SE Asia (I am originally from SE Europe), BBA, conc. Marketing. My CGPA was not that great either, a bit above 2.9.

Well, now I have 17 years of sales and (mostly) marketing experience in FMCG industry, incl. international, my current role being Mktg Director in a big African market for a big soft drinks company. (the remaining three years of my career were in procurement and banking).

We will be moving to the US in August (most likely Syracuse, NY OR Charlotte, NC area), and I will start from scratch. I'd love to do MBA, however, cost is a major consideration. Admittedly, I am also a bit rusty, but I guess GMAT shouldn't be a problem with some preparation. Also, I like marketing, but I'd like to change the company, and maybe even industry, but my main criterium will be to do something I like for a company I can associate with - ideally for a good cause.

Syracuse University is too expensive for me, so I was looking at SUNY @ Utica/Rome or if we were to move to Charlotte, UNC. I am at a very early stage in my research / even thinking about this whole thing, however, any advice or question that may aid my thinking is welcome.

Again, apologies if it's distracting - if yes, I'll move it to another topic.
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mcgr

Hi LJ75. I'm happy to have you here and don't find it distracting at all. I think our cases are similar enough that we can both benefit from shared advice. I'd expect your significant international exposure should give you a leg up on other candidates however, and I'd guess that would offset a lower G.P.A. from 20 years ago, but I don't have any special insight.

Can I ask what is drawing you to these two very different areas? Syracuse is in an area that has been pretty hard hit by manufacturing declines, and while I've heard from a friend who is originally from there that there are some signs of resurgence in the downtown area, I'd imagine good jobs are still pretty hard to find. There's also the matter of the weather, especially from someone who it seems has spent most of their life in temperate or tropical places, this morning it is -13C in Syracuse, and isn't expected to get much warmer throughout the day. Charlotte I expect is a more dynamic city and is certainly in a warmer climate.

Hi LJ75. I'm happy to have you here and don't find it distracting at all. I think our cases are similar enough that we can both benefit from shared advice. I'd expect your significant international exposure should give you a leg up on other candidates however, and I'd guess that would offset a lower G.P.A. from 20 years ago, but I don't have any special insight.

Can I ask what is drawing you to these two very different areas? Syracuse is in an area that has been pretty hard hit by manufacturing declines, and while I've heard from a friend who is originally from there that there are some signs of resurgence in the downtown area, I'd imagine good jobs are still pretty hard to find. There's also the matter of the weather, especially from someone who it seems has spent most of their life in temperate or tropical places, this morning it is -13C in Syracuse, and isn't expected to get much warmer throughout the day. Charlotte I expect is a more dynamic city and is certainly in a warmer climate.
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LJ75

Thanks.
Well, tbh, my brother & his family are in Syracuse, so if we were to move there, it'd be mainly because of them, and I suppose they'd be able to help us settle initially.
As for Charlotte, nicer climate, better economy (did a lot of research on this, so if not for my brother, it'd be my first choice) - so haven't decided yet. As for the reason why move at all - it's because of our kids: my wife and I believe they can have a better future in the US compared to where we're originally from.

We have enough money for the first year or two (maybe a bit more), but our plan is to hit the road running.

I have decided to leave my current employer, and they have been very fair when it comes to separation agreement - they could have just as well declined to pay me anything, because it was my decision, but I am getting out of this quite satisfied. I declined the move to another exotic place in central Asia / very eastern Europe since I did not like the location, and the only region that perhaps could have changed my mind is SE Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, in that order of preference). Love that part of the world, and who knows, maybe we'll go there again.

In a way, I look at this MBA almost like a treat / reward for myself. I graduated on June 12 1997, and I barely missed a day ever since, so right now, just looking for something that won't break the bank, and will have the best ROI. Not very unique :)

Thanks.
Well, tbh, my brother & his family are in Syracuse, so if we were to move there, it'd be mainly because of them, and I suppose they'd be able to help us settle initially.
As for Charlotte, nicer climate, better economy (did a lot of research on this, so if not for my brother, it'd be my first choice) - so haven't decided yet. As for the reason why move at all - it's because of our kids: my wife and I believe they can have a better future in the US compared to where we're originally from.

We have enough money for the first year or two (maybe a bit more), but our plan is to hit the road running.

I have decided to leave my current employer, and they have been very fair when it comes to separation agreement - they could have just as well declined to pay me anything, because it was my decision, but I am getting out of this quite satisfied. I declined the move to another exotic place in central Asia / very eastern Europe since I did not like the location, and the only region that perhaps could have changed my mind is SE Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, in that order of preference). Love that part of the world, and who knows, maybe we'll go there again.

In a way, I look at this MBA almost like a treat / reward for myself. I graduated on June 12 1997, and I barely missed a day ever since, so right now, just looking for something that won't break the bank, and will have the best ROI. Not very unique :)
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mba hipste...



In a way, I look at this MBA almost like a treat / reward for myself. I graduated on June 12 1997, and I barely missed a day ever since, so right now, just looking for something that won't break the bank, and will have the best ROI. Not very unique :)

You might want to also consider something in the part-time or online formats, so that you could work at the same time as studying - assuming your residency status allows for that. I know folks who live upstate and commute to do the EMBA at Columbia or the part-time MBA at NYU. Having a brand name like one of those two schools on your resume would provide a solid ROI, surely.

[quote]

In a way, I look at this MBA almost like a treat / reward for myself. I graduated on June 12 1997, and I barely missed a day ever since, so right now, just looking for something that won't break the bank, and will have the best ROI. Not very unique :)[/quote]
You might want to also consider something in the part-time or online formats, so that you could work at the same time as studying - assuming your residency status allows for that. I know folks who live upstate and commute to do the EMBA at Columbia or the part-time MBA at NYU. Having a brand name like one of those two schools on your resume would provide a solid ROI, surely.
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